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While Wormwood was an album that dragged on for too long with few really captivating moments, Marduk's recent EP, Iron Dawn displayed a step in the right direction personally, with the band regaining the ferocious charm that made the band instantly one of my favourites when I first heard albums like Panzer Division Marduk and Rom 5:12. This year sees the band finally releasing the follow up to 2009's Wormwood, their debut with Century Media Records, Serpent Sermon.
I vaguely remember the band mentioning how Serpent Sermon will sound different from what was on Iron Dawn, and how I was initially slightly disappointed with the news. Fortunately, there is nothing much to be disappointed with on Serpent Sermon. Right from the start of the album, the shift in the band's sound is extremely evident. While albums like Rom 5:12 and Wormwood had a somewhat death metal influence in the playing style, on Serpent Sermon the band takes a more bleak approach, and that abrasive death metal style is noticeably reduced on the album, most obviously in the guitars of the album, with guitarist Morgan favouring a trebly trem-picked style for the most part. Mortuus, who has preferred a gruff, low pitch growl all along not only in the previous albums, but also on his Funeral Mist releases, takes on a different approach this time, and though the tortured, gargled style is still present, he registers a higher pitch this time, giving the music a rather different feel yet without losing that aggressive touch in Marduk's music.
Furthermore, there is also a slightly more epic approach in terms of the songwriting on Serpent Sermon. There seems to be an increased emphasis on the melodic side of the band's songwriting, as evident on the chorus of the title track Serpent Sermon and this certainly is something fresh in the band's recent catalogue. This is of course not to say that the ferocity in the band has reduced, as the band still mostly goes at a breakneck speed, what with the blistering and furious blasting of drummer Lars, as he presents some of his fastest works with Marduk on this record, at times reminding listeners of the good blasting moments on Panzer Division Marduk.
For the most part though, despite the slight change in playing style of the band, the song structures still remind fans and listeners of the band's style on Wormwood and Rom 5:12, with the most obvious being songs like Souls for Belial. Hail Mary even brings in riffs and progression that is somewhat similar to Cold Mouth Prayer, and the slower tracks like Temple of Decay once again reminds one of songs like Accuser/Opposer and spoil the nice tempo and momentum that the band has built up with the previous tracks.
Overall, Serpent Sermon does have its moments, and possibly contains some of the most powerful and intense moments in Marduk's recent history. Though there are times when songs and riffs sound familiar and reminiscent of songs on Rom 5:12 and Wormwood, Serpent Sermon would certainly appeal to fans of later Marduk output.